Category Archives: history

History: Reading Early 19th Century Handwriting

I recently posted a legal document written in 1827, this was written in hand using a quill pen (quite possibly made from a goose feather) and it is rather difficult to read, there is no punctuation, commas or full stops not even an apostrophe and the capitalisation is all over the place. There are fewer characters in this alphabet, with some serving a dual purpose in giving a value based on context rather than appearance.

Whatever is written here….

The ‘m’ and ‘n’ characters are upside down, uppercase ‘I’ and ‘J’ are both the same and some characters have still not been fully completed, so ‘c’ looks like an ‘r’ and ‘e’ looks like a ‘c’. The double ‘s’ – ‘ss’ had still not been invented at this time and words with these are spelt ‘fs’, so ‘passages’ is written as ‘pafsesges’. I have constructed this cheat sheet from that document and hopefully the chart will help you in your quest:

Letter Example
A  Upper A  Lower A and Example A
B  Upper B  Lower B between Example B
C  Upper C  Lower C second Example C
D  Upper D  Lower D hundred Example D
E  Upper E  Lower E same Example E
F  Upper F  Lower F of Example F
G  Upper G  Lower G shillings Example G
H  Upper H  Lower H her Example H
I  Upper I  Lower I said Example I
J  Upper J  Lower J jointly Example J
K    Lower K Blake Example K
L    Lower L latter Example L
M  Upper M  Lower M made Example M
N  Upper N  Lower N grant Example N
O  Upper O  Lower O Joseph Example O
P  Upper P  Lower P appointed Example P
Q    Lower Q quality Example Q
R    Lower R presents Example R
S    Lower S assign Example S
T  Upper T  Lower T the Example T
U    Lower U fourth Example U
V    Lower V revoked Example V
W  Upper W  Lower W wife Example W
X    Lower X execution Example X
Y    Lower Y yearly Example Y
Z    Lower Z Elizabeth Example Z

After few hours reading the words start to pop out, it helps that the document is written is a formulaic legalese style with many repeated phrases (were they paid by the word?).

Further Reading

History: A Property Contract, Sheffield, July 1827

An indenture dated 18th July 1827 for the transfer of a mortgage for £1000 and interest between Ralph Blakelock, a banker in Sheffield and the merchants; John Butcher, Samuel Hadfield, John Binney, and Thomas Binney, as well as Henry Agie a Gentleman all of Sheffield. The document looks to be describing the mortgage, rents and leases as well some land and property of a ‘large Capital Messuage or Dwelling house’ built on the site of two dwelling houses in a street or place in Sheffield commonly called or known by the name of the Hartshead. The two former houses were occupied by John Trippett and James Mycock before being ‘wholly pulled down and rebuilt’ by Nicholas Broadbent.


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